Tuesday, February 23, 2016

New Libyan National Army Air Force MiG-23ML soon operational

During the Libyan uprising in 2011, most of the Libyan Air Force aircrafts were destroyed by NATO airstrikes. After the first civil war, the Free Libyan Air Force was reduced to a few former G-2 Galebs, J-21 Jastrebs, L-39s, Mig-21bis, Mig-21UMs, Mig-23MLs and 23UBs, with the adding of the two Mirage F1EDs that defected to Malta and some transport aircrafts like An-32 and C-130H in poor flying conditions. The Libyan Army Aviation consisted in Mi-8, Mi-17 and Mi-35 helicopters.

On May 16th 2014, General Haftar forces launched “Operation Dignity” against Benghazi Islamist militia groups’ bases using helicopters, fighter jets and ground forces in the assault. On July 13th, “Operation Libya Dawn” was launched by Misrata militias and Islamists on Tripoli International Airport. On October 15th, airstrikes were performed against “Ansar al-Sharia” and “February 17 Martyrs Brigade”. Haftar’s forces claimed these attacks, but conflicting reports might involve Egyptian in this operation. However, in October, Libyan Air Force received three Mig-21MFs and three Mi-8s that can be armed with UB-16 rocket pods.

Ex-Egyptian MiG-21MF

Ex-Egyptian Mi-8T carrying UB-16 rockets pods

These former Egyptian Mig-21s may have been the aircrafts involved in these attacks. By the end of 2014, in al-Watiya AB, work has been started to make operational former Su-22s. Ten to twelve of these Su-22Ms were stored in shelters before the uprising and escaped the destruction by NATO because they were decommissioned. Only two Mig-23MLs were operational, serial #6472 at Benina AB and serial #6132 at al-Watiya AB along with Mig-23UB serial #7834. Beginning March 2015, two new further Egyptian Mig-21MFs were delivered at Gamal Abdul El Nasser near Tobruk International Airport. On 26th, four new Mi-35P helicopters were delivered in Marj to the Libya National Army (LNA).

In parallel of the commissioning of one Su-22UM-3K and one Mirage F1AD on 1st December 2015 (refurbishing for one year), LNA AF (Libyan National Army Air Force or ex-Libyan Air Force) started working on a new MiG-23ML (serial number #26453). On 4th December, Libyan mechanicians were refurbishing the engine as shown on the photos below :

Begining February 2016, the engine repairing was complete :

At the same period, the LNA AF lost the two last MiG-23s of its fleet and one pilot. While its new Su-22UM-3K started tests flights before being engaged in operations, mechanicians began engine tests on the new MiG-23ML as we can see (and hear) on the two videos below. This two new aircrafts, together with the Mirage F1AD soon operational will be of great help for the new operation "blood of the martyr" launched by LNA against Benghazi Islamist militia groups’ bases from 20 February.

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